Some Kind of Wonderful (1987, Howard Deutch)


Spoiler warning: These reviews reveal plot twists.

Teenager Keith Nelson wants to go out with a girl called Amanda, but doesn’t know that his best friend is in love with him…


* Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson) is a tomboy who loves drumming. John Hughes named the character after drummer Charlie Watts – Rolling Stones reference #1. The best friend of lead character Keith, she’s the Duckie in this rehash of Pretty in Pink’s storyline. And like Duckie, the fact she’s in love with her BFF is obvious to everyone but the friend. So Watts is hurt when Keith develops an obsession with a girl called Amanda. However, when he gets a date, Watts puts her feelings to one side and helps him out. She gives him kissing practise, then acts as a chauffeur for the big night, but she finds it all very difficult. Thankfully for her – rather conveniently for the story – Keith then realises he’s in love with her. That’s nice, isn’t it?

* Keith Nelson (Eric Stoltz) is a working-class kid who has a part-time job as a mechanic. John Hughes named the character after guitarist Keith Richards – Rolling Stones reference #2. We first see him walking towards an oncoming train: like Pretty in Pink’s Andie living on the wrong side of the tracks, it’s one of director Howard Deutch’s more on-the-nose moments. Keith’s dad is pressuring him to make a decision about which college he wants to go to, but he’s more interested in painting than academia. He also fancies a student called Amanda. So when she’s given detention for skipping school, he deliberately gets one too in order to spend time with her. Sadly for him, she gets out of it – but while there he makes a new friend when he bonds with troubled bully Duncan. Keith later asks Amanda out and she says yes. But then her twatty ex, Hardy, comes to him and, pretending to be magnanimous, invites Keith and Amanda to a house party. It’s actually a rouse, as Keith later finds out: the plan is to get Keith to the party and beat him up. But Keith chooses to go anyway (“I want to stand up to him!”). On date night, he takes Amanda to a posh restaurant, then an art museum (where’s he hung a painting of her – sweet or creepy?), then an empty outdoor auditorium. At the latter, he tells her he knows the night is a set-up. But she reveals that her feelings are genuine and they kiss. They then go to the party, where Hardy is openly nasty (“Did she do you?”). Keith attacks him, so Hardy orders his hangers-on to take Keith outside. When Amanda intercedes, Hardy says he’ll let Keith off if Amanda literally begs him for forgiveness… But then Duncan and his punky friends show up, and Hardy’s hard-on goes limp. “I’m here to wipe the floor with your ass,” says Duncan. “I know it and you know it.” Keith and Amanda leave the party, and Keith – for… some… reason – has an epiphany and realises it’s actually Watts he wants to be with. Amanda doesn’t seem to mind. He chases after his best friend and they kiss…

* Amanda Jones (Lea Thompson) is the most beautiful girl at the school, which doesn’t seem to be the same Shermer High as earlier films. John Hughes named the character after the song Miss Amanda Jones – Rolling Stones reference #3. (It’s an album track on 1967’s Between the Buttons.) She oozes sex. The word cute could have been coined for her. When she’s given detention for skipping school, she bamboozles balding, middle-aged teacher Mr Saunders with her inner Lolita and flirts her way out of it. We later see her in the locker room – and both Watts and the camera are stunned by how good she looks. When Keith asks her out, she’s just dumped cheating boyfriend Hardy so says yes. She genuinely likes Keith, even though he comes to think she’s conning him… Molly Ringwald turned the role down, wanting to spread her wings from her mentor’s movies. John Hughes responded by never speaking to her again. At first, Lea Thompson also passed on the role, but then her latest film – misunderstood masterpiece Howard the Duck – stunk up the box office, so she thought again. Her involvement created something of an oddity for the characters of Amanda and Keith: two years earlier, Thompson and Eric Stoltz had been cast as mother and son in Back to the Future. During filming, Thompson started going out with the director, Howard Deutch. They later married and are still together.

* Hardy Jenns (Craig Sheffer) is Amanda’s boyfriend and is a total sleazeball. He essentially replaces James Spader in the Pretty in Pink formula.

* Cindy Nelson (Candace Cameron) is Keith’s youngest sister. She’s wise before her years, kinda like Sam Baker’s smartass brother in Sixteen Candles.

* Laura Nelson (Maddie Corman), Keith’s other sibling, has a rough-and-tumble rivalry with her brother. But when she overhears Hardy revealing his plan to beat up Keith, she’s worried and quickly tells him.

* Duncan (Elias Koteas) is a school thug: a skinhead with a leather jacket, who smokes and is rude to authority figures. We first see him taunting Watts for her androgynous appearance and squaring up to Keith. However, he and Keith later end up in the same detention and form a friendship by showing each other the doodles they’re sketching. (Keith’s are on paper. Duncan’s are carved into the desk.) On the night of Keith’s date, Duncan and his pals help out by arranging for the couple to have after-hours access to both an art gallery and the Hollywood Bowl. It’s as contrived as anything – and you see it coming a mile off – but it’s still a punch-the-air moment when Duncan shows up at the party to support his new friend. Koteas later played Casey Jones in two Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films.

* Amanda has a couple of richie friends (Laura Leigh Hughes and Molly Hagan). We soon learn that, unlike them, Amanda doesn’t come from money. The girls have deigned to allow Amanda into their clique because she was dating Hardy, and they drop her when she agrees to go out with Keith.

* Ray (Scott Coffey) is a dopey lad who fancies Watts. She uses him to try (unsuccessfully) to make Keith jealous.


* Carol Nelson (Jane Elliot) is Keith’s mum.

* Cliff Nelson (John Ashton), Keith’s father, is eager for his son to go to college. If he’d gone, he says, he wouldn’t be selling tyres six days a week. When Keith keeps evading the discussion, Cliff even goes to the school to talk to the careers counsellor himself. He then blows a gasket when he find out Keith has spent his college fund on earrings for Amanda, but Keith wins him round by saying he has to live his own life.

* The gym teacher who gives Amanda detention – and later throws Hardy out of the girls’ changing room – is played by Lee Garlington (the waitress in the Seinfeld pilot, Elena Rhyzkov in Sneakers, the woman who has an affair with Joey’s dad in Friends, Xander’s mum in Buffy, Toby’s lawyer in The West Wing, and many, many other roles).

* There are some guys who have a game of cards with Watts in a car park. One of them is played by Jonathan Schmock (the maitre d’ from Ferris Bueller) and in the same scene Watts quotes The Breakfast Club (“Mess with the bull, you get the horns!”).

Music: The opening titles play under a driving bit of incidental music, which Watts appears to be drumming along with. Some later score sounds like proto Stone Roses, so melodic is the bassline. Watts goes to a nightclub, where a band is playing on stage. The track Miss Amanda Jones is used for a montage of the main characters getting ready for the night of the party; a cover by The March Violets is also heard. An insipid version of Can’t Help Falling in Love With You by Lick the Tins is played over the end credits.

Beatles references: None. The Stones win this one.

Review: “Then I’m 19, then I’m 20. When does my life belong to me?” A remake of Pretty in Pink, with the gender roles reversed and the original pick-the-best-friend ending restored. Sadly, it falls flat on its po-faced face. It’s just not as funny as the earlier John Hughes scripts – or as touching, or as moving, or as exciting, or as engaging. The film has considerably less zip too, thanks to Howard Deutch’s meat-and-potatoes direction. It’s not without merit. The female characters are generally interesting and well played, especially Mary Stuart Masterson’s Watts. But it fades from the memory very quickly.

Six hen houses out of 10

Pretty in Pink (1986, Howard Deutch)


Spoiler warning: These reviews reveal plot twists.

Teenager Andie Walsh starts dating a boy at her school – but he’s from a richer clique, and friends on both sides of the social divide object to the relationship…


* Andie Walsh (Molly Ringwald) is a high-school senior from a single-parent, working-class family. Before she appears, some literal-minded direction tells us about her situation: we’re shown that her house is actually on the wrong side of the tracks. Andie chivvies along her layabout father; makes her own outfits to save money; and works part-time at a record shop. (Despite being poor, she still has her own car!) Her best friend, Duckie, is unashamedly in love with her. Because she’s not a ‘richie’, Andie is teased at school by the well-off kids. However, one of them, Blaine, has taken a shine to her so starts flirting. Andie’s torn because he’s rich. But the next day in the school library, Blaine starts IM’ing her (well, the 1986 version of instant messaging) and she’s smitten. Blaine even ventures into the poor kids’ section of the school campus and asks her out – but then makes the mistake of taking her to his rich friend’s house party, where she’s far from welcome. She then takes him to her local hangout, but they bump into Duckie, who’s jealous and bitter about Andie’s new relationship. The night then gets worse when she has to admit to Blaine that she doesn’t want him to see where she lives. Rather than be offended, he drives her home, kisses her and asks her to the school prom. But over the next few days, under pressure from his friend Steff, Blaine blows cold and avoids Andie, leaving her upset. So she confronts him and he admits that he can’t take her to the prom after all: he lies that he’d already asked someone else. After a pep talk from pal Iona, Andie makes herself a new dress and goes to the do alone. At the school entrance, she sees Duckie and the two friends reconcile. And when she realises that Blaine has also come alone, Andie gives him another chance and they kiss… The ending as originally filmed had Andie choose Duckie over Blaine. But test audiences reacted badly, so the cast were recalled and a new sequence cooked up. My heart says she should have picked Duckie, but my head tells me the Blaine ending is better. Pretty in Pink was Ringwald’s third and final John Hughes character – in fact, he wrote it specifically for her. The fact that all are believable and feel different is a real credit to the actress.

* Blaine McDonough (Andrew McCarthy) shows up at Andie’s place of work and buys a random record as an excuse to talk to her. His pal Steff objects to him dating a working-class girl, so puts pressure on him to use her and lose her. Blaine has a wobble and actually dumps Andie (boo), but eventually tells Steff to fuck off (yay). By the time of the happy-ending reshoot, Andrew McCarthy had cut off his hair for another role. So sadly Blaine sports a terrible wig for the film’s final few minutes.

* Phil ‘Duckie’ Dale (Jon Cryer) is Andie’s best friend. He’s not-so-secretly in love with her, though tries to hide his affection behind humour. At one point, he even has a chat with Andie’s dad to assure him of his honourable intentions. Duckie’s smart and quick-witted, but is deliberately failing his classes in order to avoid leaving high school. He’s deeply hurt when Andie starts seeing Blaine and lashes out at her; he later kisses their friend Iona to try to make Andie jealous. But after overhearing Steff slagging off Andie, Duckie physically attacks him. At the end, he patches things up with Andie as they both attend the prom dateless, and Duckie advises her to give Blaine another go. The film then gives him a reward for his sacrifice: he pulls a gorgeous girl. In some ways, the character is a slightly older version of the Geek from Sixteen Candles. Hughes and Deutch originally wanted Anthony Michael Hall to play the role, but he turned it down as he feared being typecast. Robert Downey Jr, who’d just been in Weird Science, was also considered before Cryer was cast.

* Benny Hanson (Kate Vernon) is a rich bully in Andie’s classes. She’s dating Steff. Like most of the students at the school, she looks about 30.

* Jenna (Alexa Kenin) is Andie’s pal at school who delights in returning Benny’s bad attitude (“I hope they shrivel up and fall off…”).

* Steff McKee (James Spader) is Blaine’s best pal, and is a total cunt. After Andie makes it clear she doesn’t like him, Steff turns nasty and counsels Blaine to stay away from her. James Spader gives a performance of prime sleazeball: white Miami Vice jacket, open shirt, no socks, droopy cigarette, languid eyes, slutty girlfriend, the works.

* Simon (Dweezil Zappa) is a pal of Andie and Jenna’s. In his scene at the nightclub, he’s more interested in the band than listening to the girls.

* Benny has a couple of different partners-in-bitchiness, one of whom is played by Gina Gershon.

* A girl at the prom (Kristy Swanson, who was later the original Buffy Summers) is credited as ‘Duckette’ because she smiles at Duckie and nods approvingly. After checking that she means what he thinks she means, he looks conspiratorially at the camera then moves in.


* Jack Walsh (Harry Dean Stanton) is Andie’s father, who’s been in a rut ever since her mother walked out on the family. He’s unemployed and, in a self-destructive kind of way, reluctant to get a job. When he finds out Andie is going to her prom, he buys her a garish pink dress. She’s polite about the pattern, but then rumbles that he’s been lying about a new job.

* Iona (Annie Potts) works at – and possibly owns? – Trax, the music store where Andie has a part-time job. A confident if lonely woman in her 30s, she has a post-punk style of dress. She acts as Andie’s surrogate mother figure and is her closest female friend. At one point, Duckie suddenly kisses Iona as a way of provoking Andie (Iona has to admit that she likes it). There’s a sense of her living her life vicariously through Andie – she’s pleased as punch when Andie gets asked to the prom, but the news propels Iona into a nostalgic mood for her 1960s youth. She later starts dating a pet-shop owner (“Amongst other things”) called Terrence and begins dressing more conventionally. Well, conventionally for 1986: she looks like she’s in Ashes to Ashes. Anjelica Huston was offered the part but turned it down. Potts got the job off her terrific appearance in Ghostbusters.

* The bouncer at nightclub Cats (Andrew Dice Clay) never lets Duckie in. It’s not clear why. When he asks Duckie why he keeps coming if Andie can get in and he can’t, Duckie is stumped.

Close-ups: Although not directed by John Hughes – he wrote and executive produced – the house style of close-up montages is continued. Andie is introduced with a series of tight shots of her getting dressed and making herself up. She’s becoming pretty in pink before our eyes.

Music: This is one of the great 1980s movie soundtracks. The title song had been a 1981 single by Psychedelic Furs; the version used in the film is actually a new, more polished recording. A couple of scenes are set in a local nightclub with a local band playing. Duckie lip-syncs and dances to Otis Redding’s Try a Little Tenderness in order to impress Andie. (Sadly for Duckie, Andie’s more interested in her imminent date with Blaine.) Three terrific New Order tracks – Shellshock, Thieves Like Us and Elegia – are used as score. OMD wrote If You Leave in 24 hours specifically for the reshot ending.

Beatles references: Duckie sings a bit of John Lennon song Love.

Smiths references: It seems Hughes and his team had a new favourite band. In Trax, the sign for the Smiths section of the LP racks is prominently shown. The nearby storeroom door has a giant poster of the band on it. And Duckie later listens to Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want while feeling maudlin.

Review: “Blaine?! His name is Blaine? That’s a major appliance, that’s not a name!” Superficially similar to Sixteen Candles, this film actually has a different feel about it. It’s John Hughes does romcom, with the class divide as the prime obstacle in the lovers’ way. The change of tone is largely down to the direction. Hughes hired Howard Deutch to direct his latest script, and he has a much more observational style: looser, calmer, less comic. It’s hard to imagine John Hughes the director using a long handheld take as Andie and Blaine walk down a busy street (or for that matter, allowing a performance as rambling and untamed as Harry Dean Stanton’s!). Aside from one knowing look to camera, there’s none of the slapstick style from earlier Hughes movies. But this actually suits Pretty in Pink’s more-soppy story, which while basic and predictable is enormous fun. Excuse me, I’ve got something in my eye…

Nine Warsaw Pacts out of 10